HOMETOWN pride, female solidarity and a truly fantastic scope of achievements were unveiled under the #girlwhogrewupinboro hashtag this week.

Scores of women took to social media after Middlesbrough scooped yet another dubious accolade, recently being dubbed the worst place in the UK for girls to grow up.

Already bruised from years of negative press, the town’s women met the news with an outpouring of heartwarming success stories.

In their desire to prove the media wrong our girls did the town proud, highlighting their many achievements as they showcased everything that’s right about Boro and its residents.

That spirit of resistance and that determined sense of pride is undoubtedly moving and should be celebrated wherever it is found.

As a Boro girl born bred and still living here, my initial response to that shocking report was also one of wounded pride, accompanied by the eye-rolling sense of resignation that, of course it’s Boro that comes off worse because when isn’t it Boro?

For as long as I can remember, my home town has regularly hit the highs in every top ten no town would ever choose to be in – whether it’s smoking, mortality rates, teenage pregnancies, drugs or, as in this case, prospects for women and girls.

Many people outside of Middlesbrough know Middlesbrough for these reasons, and often only these reasons.

It does nothing for the confidence, aspirations and well-being of its townspeople to consistently be told that we’re the worst in the land on a number of levels.

So it’s understandable that we want to rebel against our public image, to reset it and cast aside the negative representations that obscure the beauty of our town more than its mythical smog ever could.

But there’s a distinct possibility that our outrage is working to temper the findings of what was a serious minded report with a very worrying outcome.

Like it or not, the contentious research compared a number of local authorities and Middlesbrough was found wanting.

Plan International UK’s report, The State of Girls’ Rights in the UK, had the noble aim of making visible inequalities facing girls in the UK.

By coming together in large numbers to demonstrate how offended we – as successful women from Boro – are, we could be running the risk of making those inequalities invisible again.

Obviously, this research does not bring with it an empowering message but it does bring a stark one.

Poverty, teenage pregnancies and a lower life expectancy are among the factors that apparently make Middlesbrough a disproportionately difficult place for girls to grow and prosper in.

These are very real issues that should be acknowledged, not minimised or lost within the fantastic achievements and outrage of those who have prospered in our troubled town.

While I share the sadness that comes with yet another blow to our hometown pride, I’m sadder still for those women and girls at the heart of this research.

The best way to turn around the image of Middlesbrough is surely to confront and defeat the issues that regularly blight our reputation, and there’s no greater force for empowerment and change than an army of strong women dedicated to the town and its betterment.

Thankfully, we have those proud women in droves and if we can further channel their inspiration and drive in the battle against the issues we have, the fight against those who highlight them will all the sooner become redundant.